The Gift of Reading the Tarot: Being Transparent about Procedural Guidelines


Inspired by Dr. Irvin D. Yalom’s book The Gift of Therapy: An Open Letter to a New Generation of Therapists and Their Patients, I am looking at each chapter through the perspective of tarot reading…*


From Chapter 27 of Dr. Irvin Yalom’s The Gift of Therapy:


“A persuasive body of psychotherapy research demonstrates that the therapist should carefully prepare new patients by informing them about psychotherapy—its basic assumptions, rationale, and what each client can do to maximize his or her own progress.

“Patients are already burdened with the primary anxiety that brings them to therapy and it makes little sense to plunge them into a process that may create secondary anxiety—anxiety from exposure to an ambiguous social situation without guidelines for proper behavior or participation. Therefore it is wise to prepare patients systematically for the process of psychotherapy.” (pp. 84-85)


So here is one definition of transparency (as presented by Yalom): To “forgo the power of the triumvirate of magic, mystery, and authority.” This is actually the same triumvirate of power that the tarot reader has access to, and which—in the therapeutic tarot reading, anyway—should be placed in perspective. Do we need such cloaks of culturally confiscated adornment in order to be successful tarot readers? Can we forgo presenting ourselves in that aura of mystery—in an effort to be transparent—and still be respected for the work we do with the tarot?


Culturally-defined Gypsy Fortune Teller

All the bells and whistles of a culturally conscripted Gypsy fortune teller…


In the West, “physicians have for centuries, used accoutrements designed to inspire awe and maximize a placebo effect: white coats, walls studded with prestigious diplomas, and prescriptions written in Latin.” In the tarot community—which can be thought of as one branch of the esoteric community at large—we tend to have our own “accoutrements” that express our privileged access to the divine…to the “magic, mystery, and authority” of the secrets revealed by the tarot. Instead of lab coats, we have our hippy clothes or gypsy scarves, we might still put our tarot certification documents up on the walls, but we also might light a few candles sitting next to that large amethyst geode or a bunch of other crystals we’ve strategically placed around the reading table. Perhaps you’d even like a spot of tea, which I will be happy to present to you with pomp and ceremony… Most conspicuously, our tarot decks speak volumes—literally and figuratively!!


Gothic tarot reader

Ooooh…spicey!!  This guy’s got the full-on Gothic role-playing vibe goin’ on!


What if we cut our accoutrements down to the basics? Well…is that really good marketing? Hard to say. Supposedly there’s a niche for everyone, but I gotta tell ya…I lose more prospective clients than you can imagine as soon as I announce to people that “I don’t use the tarot to read the future; I use it more like a tool of art therapy to find solutions to problems.” Turns out that a lot of the public would rather know the mysterious future! Tarot readers aren’t the only ones with preconceived notions of what a tarot reader should look like and what a tarot reader should do (i.e.: read the future in their mysterious deck of cards). The public has been conditioned to anticipate and expect what tarot readers are supposed to look like and how they’re supposed to act in a reading. And those of us who break the mold, so to speak, sometimes have to be creative in creating our own new paradigm and our own new vision of what is possible with the tarot.


We should still be forthright about what we are offering to our clients. You can read my philosophy about the tarot and also read what my reading sessions are like on my website. I have to learn my script by heart, because I have to repeat it a lot. Nope, I’m not your standard, gypsy-impersonating tarot reader; and if you wanna know what you’re getting into…I—like most all ethical tarot readers—will be happy to explain it.





Although I am exploring Yalom’s reflections on the profession of Psychology and Psychiatry, I do not claim or pretend to have any training in either of those professional fields. I am simply interpreting Yalom’s reflections and concepts from the perspective of the art of reading the tarot, which although it is a talent for which I have had certified training and for which I have several years of professional experience, is not a clinical or licensed profession or activity. Readers of this blog are reminded that unless you have training and a license in the psycho-therapeutic arts, that you should NEVER be diagnosing or attempting to diagnose a reading client for clinical symptoms. Rather, you should always refer the client to seek professional help if the concern arises that the client’s issues may be related to or appear to be psychosomatic in nature.





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